I will now give a few embarrassing examples. Will a class teacher support indefinitely the noise and mischief of one student who is hell-bent upon preventing the other students from studying? Will you deliberately step on somebody’s toe causing him great pain and advise him to bear it with equanimity? Will you even increase the pressure of your foot on his toe beyond the point of tolerance and still admonish him for losing his cool?
Manoj Das Gupta’s Strange Attitude!
Manoj Das Gupta (Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram) has replied to Togo Mukherjee’s letter saying that he was “compelled to take the harsh decision” of stopping the latter from taking meals in the Dining Room because of his “nefarious activities”. What a choice of words! It sounds as if Togo was involved in a criminal conspiracy, but what exactly did he do? Togo says that all he did was to freely discuss the issue of Peter Heehs with pusillanimous Ashramites who hushed their voices as soon as the Dining Room in-charge passed by. The D.R. incharge was apparently given the instructions that nobody should speak of Peter Heehs, that you can discuss any other topic on this blessed earth but not Peter Heehs! Why? Because he is the blue-eyed boy of the Trustees, who has to be protected at all cost (even at the cost of dismantling the Sri Aurobindo Ashram), despite the fact that he has been kicking at spiritual values since the last forty years, a habit he seems to have incurred from his early school days in America. Togo Mukherjee also did the heinous act of passing over to others some well-written articles refuting Peter Heehs’s misrepresentations. So if this is what is meant by breaking “certain norms of conduct and self-discipline”, Manoj Das Gupta would certaily find it hard to justify his actions tomorrow in a public forum or a Court of law, where generally sobriety prevails over emotion. But No! How can the Court or the Govt ever prevail over the Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, who are accountable only to the Divine and nobody else! Who can ever question their inherent right to rule over terror-stricken Ashramites who are more worried about their food and shelter than the supramental manifestation!
But that apart, let me draw the reader’s attention to the following quote in Manoj Das Gupta’s letter to Togo:
A sadhak once complained to the Mother against another sadhak who was asking a young boy to shout "Bogus Ma ki Jai" and suggested that the sadhak might be sent away. When Mother asked why he was to be sent away, he said: “He speaks against you and that upsets us.”
Mother: “Those who get upset by these things are worse.”
(Sidelights on the Mother - M.P.Pandit)
There is something seriously wrong in quoting the above incident out of context and time. What were the circumstances then? First and foremost, the Mother was physically present and even administratively operational when the sadhak asked the boy to shout, “Bogus Ma ki Jai” (Victory to the Bogus Mother!). Certainly the words are hardly congenial to the Ashram’s atmosphere, where the life of every disciple is governed by the principle of the Divine Shakti as physically represented by the Divine Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. So when the Mother herself is physically present and a derailed sadhak has the temerity to denigrate her publicly in her own Ashram, She decides not only to disregard him but censure those who are upset about it. Now I am sure Her action must have had the desired effect, because I have faith in her supreme wisdom. But can we transpose the same incident to the year 2012 and learn the same lesson from Manoj Das Gupta, who simply wants to defend his inaction with regard to Peter Heehs? Does not the physical absence of the Mother make a huge difference? When the Mother censured the sadhak who complained to her after getting upset about her denigration, she could offset the negative force with her physical presence and power and thereby even double the latter’s yogic concentration and faith in Her. (The invisible force of the Mother is still there, but how many of us can feel it directly and palpably?) But in the physical absence of the Mother, a censure of this kind from an irresponsible Trustee might have the very opposite effect, that is, it might actually do harm to the Ashram, disturb its peace, diminish the faith of the disciples in the Mother, humanise her and cast aspersions on Her in public. No doubt those who are firmly anchored in Her faith will not be affected, but what about those who are still finding their way? And what about the visitors – will they not be astonished at how the Ashram authorities not only allow, but encourage and fully support the denigration of their own Gurus? Which institution in this wide world (leave alone the Ashram) will allow this kind of freedom of expression which destoys the very purpose for which the institution was built?
Let me give a number of examples to elucidate my statement. Will the Indian army accept its jawans and officers supporting the cause of Pakistan? Will the Congress or BJP encourage dissension among its members in the name of broadmindedness? Will those very TV channels which have recently raised such a hullabaloo over the issue of freedom of speech bear with open criticism from their own anchors and newsreaders? Surely not! Freedom of speech has to be always weighed against collective discipline and responsibility; otherwise there will be chaos in the institution, be it business or spiritual. In all organisations, successful collective action depends a lot on the obedience and even ability of the members to forgo their personal opinions and work for a general plan. There is some scope for differences of opinion and useful feedback from its members, but that is necessarily within the framework of the general plan and not contrary to it, and certainly not attacking the very fundamentals or overall purpose for which the institution is created – because that goes against all common sense.
I will now give a few embarrassing examples. Will a class teacher support indefinitely the noise and mischief of one student who is hell-bent upon preventing the other students from studying? Will you deliberately step on somebody’s toe causing him great pain and advise him to bear it with equanimity? Will you even increase the pressure of your foot on his toe beyond the point of tolerance and still admonish him for losing his cool? Finally, will you not clean the floor of your house spoilt by your pet dog and prevent it from repeating the same? The last example reminds me of an incident quoted by our famous Prof Kamal Das, whom people are now more ready to believe than a year back:
The late Shri Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya was particularly fond of recounting the following story:
In the early 1970s, in the immediate aftermath of the Mother having left her physical body, the late Madan-Da was in charge of the Playground and the Store Room. Madan-Da took his job very seriously and brooked no nonsense.
One day Madan-Da came to Pranab-Da, a troubled and worried man. He reported that a clutch of pigeons had been attempting to roost on the ledge over the Mother’s Map at the Playground and in the process were soiling the Map and the Mother’s Symbol with droppings. His efforts at driving the pigeons away were being obstructed by Manoj who insisted that the birds be allowed to stay and roost, and even fed them peanuts that were distributed on various occasions at the Playground. On being asked to explain his strange behaviour, Manoj told Madan-Da that he was testing whether the Mother’s Force was capable of driving these birds away in spite of his opposition to it.
While narrating this story, Pranab-da used to add that Manoj respected any creature, however small, that could take on and fight the Divine. Naturally Pranab- Da intervened and the problem was resolved, but not without alarm bells being set off at all levels of his being. The Mother’s lion and indefatigable sentinel had sensed clear and present danger.
(The Devil’s Deathwish - by Professor Kamal Das)
Isn’t there an uncanny similarity between Manoj Das Gupta’s behaviour recounted in the above incident (when he was a youth) with his attitude in the present crisis half a century later?
But let me extend the full benefit of doubt to what seems an obviously perverse attitude. Let me justify it for the moment by saying that all of us should have this attitude because of the immense gap between the Force that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother represent and the falsehood of the present world, which is necessarily hostile to all spiritual endeavour. Thus the sooner we get used to its hostility, the better it is for us. Our success, in other words, will lie in disregarding its negative aspects and focussing ourselves on our spiritual goal so that we remain not only unaffected by the world but even influence it with our positive gains. The argument sounds convincing, and this is actually the attitude of many of the earnest followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother living in the world, and not segregated in an Ashram. The same attitude can perhaps be recommended to sadhaks of Sri Aurobindo Ashram so that they can face with equanimity the present degeneration of values within the community. In fact, one of the Trustees is already on record advising the sadhaks to mind their own sadhana and not bother about the present issue. So what is wrong about such an attitude?
The falsehood of such an attitude consists in applying it not to a situation where we are helpless in an environment of falsehood (so that we are forced to bear with it), but to a situation of being strong in an environment of Truth, which is conducive for the Integral Yoga, in this case the Ashram. (In spite of the wane of spiritual values, the Ashramites have still a strong conviction in the principles of Integral Yoga and many of them have seriously dedicated their lives to it. Moreover, the spiritual atmosphere of the place is palpable even to casual visitors.) The falsehood of the above attitude gets aggravated when instead of protecting this atmosphere of peace and Yoga, the authorities of the Ashram themselves side with vicious internal attacks, such as this offensive biography of Sri Aurobindo written by Peter Heehs. It is one thing to bear falsehood with detachment, but it is altogether another matter to support and go out of the way to protect and nurture falsehood in the name of freedom of speech. The Trustees are in a position of authority and have the power to act. The matter is also within their purview and one strong public condemnation of the book and a sincere reorganisation of the board of editors would have set things right at the very beginning of this crisis. It is this stubborn refusal to act in a situation where they could easily have acted which exposes the falsity of the above attitude of detachment. The attitude could be somewhat justified for those who don’t have the power to act such as the inmates of the Ashram. But when the Trustees don this attitude of detachment, it becomes a mere excuse for irresponsibility and a deceptive cover for their inaction. “Mind your own sadhana” is certainly a good direction for the Ashramites, but not to mind about the Ashram because they have to mind their own sadhana, can hardly be a sound counsel for the Trustees. Therefore the first common sense question that arises in the mind of even the casual bystander in the present situation is, “What are the Trustees doing? Are they doing their job? What is the matter with them?” How long will the Trustees avoid such point blank questions? One day or the other, they will have to come out with straighforward answers without quibbling over attitudinal problems!
Letter of Manoj Das Gupta to Togo Mukherjee
19 March 2012
I have received your letter dated 14.03.2012.
Let me first tell you that 'Bagha Jyotin' is a household name which in Bengal is known as 'prataha smaraniyaha', and for me that name has a special resonance as he also happened to be the 'political guru' of my father whose reverence for him knew no bounds. It was for this reason that I had always a special regard for Tejenda and his family; for you in particular as I was aware of the deep love that Mother had bestowed on you.
It is in this context that I was deeply pained and shocked to see you get involved, past several months, in an ugly movement that sought to destabilize the Ashram Management. And recently, when I saw that you did not hesitate even to carry forward the movement into the street, that literally was the last straw!
All these days I have had several complaints about your nefarious activities in the Dining Room but I had turned a deaf ear hoping that one day better sense would prevail. But the recent turn of events finally compelled me to take the harsh decision of stopping you from taking your meals in the Dining Room.
You will recall that as a first step, I was considerate enough (considering your age and your long association with the Ashram) to permit you to take your food by the carrier service, which, unfortunately, you have refused to comply with. Hence, the hard decision.
Even today, I am prepared to review my decision, provided you give me in writing and promise not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the Dining Room by carrying out any sort of agitation there, failing which my decision stands. I may add here, that you are at liberty to have any opinion on any subject under the sun and are free to air them with concomitant consequences. However, inside the Ashram precincts one has to abide by certain norms of conduct and self-discipline.
Finally, as a measure of caution and good sense, you should not forget that permission granted to you to eat in the Dining Room was merely a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Ashram Authorities, since you cannot have any claim to it, not being officially an Ashramite.
Awaiting an early reply,
In Her Love,
Togo, I am placing before you the following, hoping that it will help you to regain your equipoise and see things in a wider perspective.
I. ….“Regarde comme toutes les circonstances extérieures ont peu d'importance.
Pourquoi se tendre et se raidir pour arriver à réaliser ta conception de la Vérité. Sois plus souple, plus confiante. Le seul devoir est de ne se laisser troubler par rien. Se tourmenter
pour bien faire produit d'aussi mauvais résultats qu'une mauvaise volonté….”
(Le 2 Aout)
II. A sadhak once complained to the Mother against another sadhak who was asking a young boy to shout "Bogus Ma ki Jai" and suggested that the sadhak might be sent away. When Mother asked why he was to be sent away, he said:
"He speaks against you and that upsets us"
Mother: Those who get upset by these things are worse.
(Sidelights on the Mother - M.P.Pandit)
[Emphasis added by editor]